5 Steps to Starting a Successful Online Store
When you work for yourself, the world is your oyster. Running an online business has advantages that other forms of self-employment do not offer.
When you operate a successful online store, you set your hours. You can work from home, from the local coffee shop, or while on vacation. It opens the door to opportunity, and allows you to experience life in the fullest. With mobile commerce making up 30% of all U.S. commerce, there is real opportunity for you to live and work on your own terms.
Getting started isn’t as difficult as it may seem. With these 5 simple steps, you can have your business up and running in no time!
Read on to learn more.
1. Find Your Niche
What do you love? What are you passionate about? The most important decision you make when starting your online business is the direction you will take.
While you may be tempted to choose a wide selection of product to sell, it’s better to focus in on products you care about. When you specialize in one area, your customers view you as someone who is knowledgeable in your field.
This will set your business apart from big box retailers, and make you the destination for your product. Select a niche that you can build on, and that there is a demand for.
2. Choose a Platform
If you already have a business, you either have a really easy job, or a difficult one in selecting a domain. If no one is using your business name as their domain, then using www.yournamehere.com is a no brainer.
However, if someone else is already using your name as their domain, then you’ll need to get creative. When creating your business name domain name keep it simple. You want a name that they can remember, they can spell, and without excess punctuation. If you already have a business name, try abbreviating it or using your business initials.
When it comes to selecting an e-commerce platform, you have several different options.
- Open source solutions are an option that allows for FULL customization, and the price is usually right (free). However, unless you are a tech wizard, this may mean you need to hire someone to help you develop your site.
- You can also use a licensed option, which is a program that you would download to and install in your own server. You’d be required to update it on occasion, as well as find your own hosting. This option also lacks some security protections, which could be problematic.
- We recommend using a hosted ecommerce solution, like 3dcart. A hosted option will host your site on their servers, automatically backup as necessary, meeting all security requirements, as well as provide updates to help manage your online store.
3. Determine Shipping & Payment Options
When starting an online business, you have to decide if you are going to do business outside your country. This isn’t a local mom and pop shop where everyone lives within 3 miles of one another. The whole world will have access to your website.
Along with that decision comes with choosing which shipping carriers you will use. When you select UPS, USPS, or FedEx you may be able to provide customers with real-time shipping quotes as well as quickly print shipping labels. Shipping is one of the most important process, so plan accordingly to avoid common shipping mistakes.
Before you can print a shipping label, you have to finalize that sale. Many e-commerce platforms provide you with the ability to accept credit cards as well as other forms of online payment (i.e.: PayPal). Using other online methods of payment gives your business the ability to be competitive through supporting impulse purchases. Many mobile purchases are made using online wallets, which allows users to keep their payment options a little more secure.
4. Design Your Store & Stock Up
When creating your site, start with paper. Make a list of pages that you’ll need to see on your site. These may include pages like About Us, Contact Us, Blog (yes, your online store needs a blog), Shop, etc. From there you’ll want to build a category structure.
How are you going to break up your product? If clothing is your focus, you may want to consider breaking product up by men, women, children. Remember the 3 click rule, customers need to find what they are looking for in three clicks or you risk losing their business. Planning ahead helps prevent that from happening.
Don’t forget about the product! Whether you choose to add inventory in bulk or individually be sure to start with a few pieces manually to get the hang of your user interface. In addition to stock images of product, it can be helpful to your customers to add your own images. This can be done by ordering samples of your product prior to listing and it gives you the added bonus of highlighting your favorite features.
5. Launch Your Business
Congratulations. At this point you’ve had to make some big decisions, but it will soon pay off.
When you launch your business, be sure to double check everything first. That may mean hours of pouring over your website, checking for broken links and typos, but this simple step can keep your page looking professional. Once you are confident that everything looks the way you want, it’s time to go live! Be sure to prepare to draw attention to your new e-commerce store with a proper marketing plan!
Don’t wait any longer. You’ve done the research, you have a vision, now is the time to make it happen! If you can attract even a small percentage of the online sales that take place every day, your business will be turning a profit in no time. Remember, the key to running a successful online business is to choose a niche that you care about. Authenticity is important to the consumer. Start an online store and see what you can do.
About the Author
Author: Jimmy Rodriguez COO & Co-founder of 3dcart, a leading shopping cart software. As an ecommerce authority, he’s focused on helping internet retailers succeed online by developing strategies, actionable plans and customer experiences that grow and improve performance.